Critics pointed out that the video was communal and misogynistic, and that the Congress appeared to be following in the footsteps of the BJP.

Side profile of a young woman with a backpack, white headphones, taking a selfie holding the V symbolScreenshot from the video
news Controversy Tuesday, March 16, 2021 - 21:37

Following widespread criticism, a video on the Sabarimala controversy of 2018, released by the Congress party, has been withdrawn. The less than one minute video showed a few male devotees of Lord Ayyappa, dressed in the traditional black clothes, chanting prayers and trekking while a young woman dressed in modern clothes walks past them with police escort. Meant as a dig at the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government’s earlier stand to follow the Supreme Court verdict of 2018 in supporting women’s entry into the temple, the video was part of the opposition United Democratic Front (UDF)’s campaign for the 2021 Assembly elections.

The video begins with the prayers and chants of the men in the company of two traditionally dressed women in mundum neriyathum, before they set off for Sabarimala. In parallel, visuals of a young woman wearing lipstick, packing a backpack and going off to Sabarimala is shown, to changing background music. As the barefoot men are about to climb a set of stairs – apparently representing the famous 18 steps to the Ayyappa shrine in Sabarimala – the woman passes them by, wearing shoes and headphones, clicking a selfie and has a police escort. A news clip is then played in the background – the police cleared the way and the women prayed and returned in 10 minutes, it said. The two traditionally dressed women see this clip and look shocked.

The video ends with the UDF’s promise to formulate laws to “protect the interest of believers.”

Even earlier, the UDF included Sabarimala in its campaigns. Days after the 2018 verdict came, both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress-led UDF held massive protests against allowing women between the ages of 10 and 50 into the temple. The LDF’s decision to follow the SC verdict instead of sending a review petition was criticised by right-wing supporters.

However, when the UDF video cropped up, critics pointed out how communal and misogynistic it was, and that the Congress seemed to be following in the footsteps of the BJP. It was after widespread criticism that the video was pulled away.

Read: Raking Sabarimala issue again in Kerala: A miscalculation by the Congress?

Watch: Explainer: Who is for and against allowing women into Sabarimala temple?

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